OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Authorities say two men who were shot by a
police officer investigating a report of an attempt to steal beer from a
grocery store are expected to survive.
Authorities say the men who were shot were not armed with guns.
Two stepbrothers suspected of trying to steal beer from a grocery store were not armed with guns when they were shot Thursday by a police officer who confronted them in Washington state's capital city.
The officer reported that he was being assaulted with a skateboard before the shooting in Olympia that left one man critically injured and another in stable condition, authorities said.
The shooting, which is being investigated by a team of detectives from several agencies, prompted some brief protests.
"We are committed to helping our community work through this difficult circumstance and help us understand this tragic event," Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said at news conference.
Officer Ryan Donald was among those who responded around 1 a.m. to a call from a Safeway store, Roberts said. Employees said two men tried to steal beer and then threw the alcohol at workers who confronted the pair.
Officers split up to search for the men. Donald encountered two men with skateboards who fit witnesses' descriptions, and moments later, he radioed in that shots had been fired, the police chief said.
In radio calls released by police, Donald calls dispatchers once he spots the men, and again to report that he fired shots.
"I believe one of them is hit, both of them are running," Donald said.
He tells dispatchers that one of the men "assaulted me with his skateboard."
"I tried to grab his friend," Donald said. "They're very aggressive, just so you know."
He says he has one man, then both, at gunpoint and asks for help.
Seconds later, he shouts, "Shots fired! One down," and asks for more backup units. He then says the second man has been shot.
The police chief said Donald wasn't injured but an officer "has the right to defend himself" if a suspect wields an object that could be used as a deadly weapon.
Donald, 35, who is on administrative leave pending the investigation, has been with the department for just over three years. No residents have filed complaints against him, and he was recently recognized by the agency for being proactive on investigations, Roberts said. He worked previously as an Army police officer, the chief said.
The two men were identified as Andre Thompson, 24, and Bryson Chaplin, 21, both of Olympia.
They are black, and Donald is white, but Roberts said, "There's no indication to me that race was a factor in this case at all."
Authorities said Chaplin was in critical condition but expected to survive.
The shooting follows a string of high-profile killings of unarmed black men by police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, which set off weeks of protests and a national "Black Lives Matter" movement that has gained momentum across the country.
Olympia Mayor Stephen H. Buxbaum called for calm in the community.
"It deeply saddens me that we have two young people in the hospital as a result of an altercation with an officer of the law," he said. "Let's come together to support their needs, the officer's needs, the needs of the families and our community's needs. Let's not be reactive."
Merritt Long, a retired chairman of the state's liquor control board, was one of several residents to attend the news conference Thursday.
"Does the punishment fit the crime?" he asked afterward. "Given the seeming epidemic of this happening not only here but in our country, it makes you pause and wonder what's going on."